CISM • International Centre for Mechanical Sciences

Stephen C. Cowin

The International Centre for Mechanical Sciences announces with the deepest sorrow that Professor Stephen C. Cowin passed away on October 19, 2016. He has been coordinator and lecturer at CISM courses since 1995.
Here below the obituary we received form the Department of Biomedical Engineering of The City College of New York.

It is with great sadness that the Department of Biomedical Engineering mourns the death of one of its co-founders, Stephen C. Cowin, on October 19, 2016, one week shy of his 82nd birthday. Professor Cowin, an internationally recognized scholar in the field of biomechanics and solid mechanics more generally, first came to The City College in the fall of 1988 as a CUNY Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering. He was a senior member of the Department of Mechanical Engineering from 1988 to 2002 when he transferred to the newly created Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) in 2002, where he served for one year as its first department chair. He remained in the BME Department until his retirement in 2015. Before the creation of the BME Department and undergraduate degree program, Professor Cowin helped create a new CUNY PhD Program in Biomedical Engineering in 1999. Prior to coming to The City College in 1988 Professor Cowin had taught at Tulane University for 25 years, where he co-founded their Biomedical Engineering Department with William Van Buskirk in 1977 and was the Alden J. Laborde Professor of Engineering. Professor Cowin received his BS and MS degrees in Civil Engineering from Johns Hopkins in 1956 and 1958, respectively, and his PhD in Engineering Mechanics from Penn State in 1962.

Professor Cowin is widely recognized for his pioneering research in the mechanics of materials, in particular the influence of microstructure on the gross mechanical behavior of granular, composite, and biological materials. In the early part of his career he wrote classic papers on continuum theory for granular materials (with MA Goodman), a non-linear theory for elastic materials with voids (with JW Nunziato), and developed basic theorems in anisotropic elasticity (with MM Mehrabadi). While at Tulane he started his research on bone remodeling in response to mechanical forces and introduced the concept of the fabric tensor for cancellous bone in which he tried to explain Wolff’s law for trabecular architecture, which dated back to the last part of the 19th century. Shortly after his arrival at City College he started to work with CUNY Distinguished Professor Sheldon Weinbaum on a cellular level hypothesis to explain how bone cells (osteocytes) sense mechanical forces due to human locomotion. Their inaugural paper in 1994 on the effect of fluid forces on the dendritic processes of osteocytes helped expand research on mechanotransduction in living bone. Until recently, this paper (> 1000 Google citations) was the most cited paper in the J. Biomechanics since its founding and was the catalyst for the International Bone Fluid Flow Workshop, which Professor Cowin inaugurated in 1997. In 1995 the authors received the Research Award of the European Society of Biomechanics. Professor Cowin has worked extensively with Professor Weinbaum since then and has also collaborated closely with CCNY Professors SP Fritton and L Cardoso on bone poroelasticity.

Professor Cowin is one of the most highly cited investigators in the field of biomechanics. He has published more than 250 research papers, edited five books on bone and tissue mechanics, including the Bone Mechanics Handbook in 1989 and 2001. His book on Tissue Mechanics with S Doty is also in its 2nd edition. His research papers and books have been cited over 10,000 times on the Web of Science and he has received numerous awards. Foremost among these are his election to the National Academy of Engineering in 2004, the Melville Medal of the ASME 1993, the HR Lissner Award of the ASME in 1999, the MA Biot Medal of the ASCE in 2004, and the Honorary Lifetime Award by the International Society for Porous Media in 2016, in addition to the Research Award of the European Society of Biomechanics in 1995.

Professor Cowin was also an engaged, dedicated, and effective teacher. He is survived by his wife of many years, Martha, their two children Thomas and Jennifer and eight grandchildren.

Stephen C. Cowin